I call it The Boudoir.
I have called my closet The Boudoir everywhere we have lived since 2001, when the indulgent husband and I lived in Orlando, in an old building with amazing hardwood floors at 220 South Eola Drive. (I can speak with such liberality about our address because the building has since been torn down and become an empty lot next to a monstrosity in what used to be an empty lot.)
The apartment was so cute…just perfect for two young married people. It came fully stocked with amazing neighbors, a neighborhood cat and the strangest, most endearing landlords anyone will ever have. It had a tiny little kitchen which we painted baby blue, a sweet little dining room that my Gigi and I sewed all kinds of fun things for, a pretty living room.
The bedroom was actually the least attractive space, but then, there was The Boudoir!
The Boudoir was a big space off the bedroom. It had a window, a full-length mirror and a whole wall kitted out with a clothing rod and shelves. I have distinct memories of spending time in that little room, just for the love of being in it. Many an episode of This American Life did I listen to in my boudoir, folding clothes and feeling like a Princess.
Naming the space
The term boudoir comes from the French, from the verb bouder, which means to pout. So, literally, my closet is the place where, for more than twenty years now, I have gone to pout.
It has not been every apartment where we have lived that has had a walk-in delight that is an actual boudoir. It happens that the apartment where I live now does, although it is much smaller than the one I had in Orlando. But it has a window!!!!!
Whether your closet is a walk-in, a rolling rack, a built-in, an Ikea add-on…whatever your physical space is where you keep your clothes, give it a name.
I know this sounds silly. No one has to know the name but you. You can call it Mount Olympus. Or Eden (which would be particularly funny, as we will see on Sunday with our discussion of biblical clothes-obsession precedent!) Call it Tara (excellent for the days on which you just want to light a match to the whole thing.) Or, you can just call it The Boudoir, like I do!
Naming the space is important, because when you do your Mise en Place, it’s nice to be able to say, “I’m going to The Boudoir to do my Mise en Place.” It sounds better than, “I’m going to go pick out clothes for tomorrow out of a pile of somewhat clean laundry in the bedroom.” It makes the whole process more dignified.
It also elevates the collection of items that make up your wardrobe. If you are going to bring a new t-shirt into Shangri-la, it better be Shangri-la worthy! Equally, why would you keep a pair of jeans that make you miserable every time you look at them in the utopia you call Shangri-la?
Less than ideal can still be ideal
At any given moment, my closet serves as: a place where my indulgent husband and I hang our clothes, a recording studio, a sewing room, a private office for making phone calls and place where we store things that we really hope the scalawags won’t get into.
This is not ideal, but here is something: because I have done a lo-hot (said like Phoebe, if you are following me) of work to make my closet, the physical space, The Boudoir, as it were, a place that brings me immeasurable joy, it is a place that feels like a tangible form of grace.
It sometimes gets messy, especially when I am working on a sewing project. It can often feel cramped, especially when I have to bring in a table for my recording equipment and the cat decides he must participate. I am not always faithful about putting things away immediately.
But the space itself makes puts me in a good headspace. And as we said, being in a good headspace leads to being in a good heartspace.
I love porn (Closet Porn, that is.)
I cannot tell you how many times I have looked at, what I call affectionately closet porn on Pinterest. Usually, these are staged closets, usually with some kind of minimalist aesthetic. Sometimes, they are just one rack at a store, perfectly organized with just the right amount of space between each item.
I am not a proponent of most kinds of aspirational Pinterest bingeing, but on this front, if you struggle with issues organizing the mass of clothing you call your wardrobe, I make an exception. Not so that you can compare, because comparing isn’t the purpose (you know how I feel about comparing!) I will never be the person who would suggest that such and such organizing system that you can buy will change your life.
Sure, organizing porn is a real thing. But this kind of Pinterest adventure is to see what you like, what inspires you specifically in the way clothes are arranged. Have a whole board of inspiration. Make a closet porn board (although, fair warning, Pinterest won’t let you name it that, believe me, I’ve tried.)
What I found as I browsed through photo after photo of other people’s closets was that what I was attracted to in a closet was not so much the clothes, it was the space. It could be a tiny little thing, just like it could be a gigantic thing. I liked the idea that each item had space to breathe in the closet.
Therefore, if I wanted to start moving towards that ideal, this aesthetic ideal of all my clothes having space (without becoming independently wealthy) I would need to drastically reduce the amount of clothes in my closet.
I don’t want to brag (okay, on second thought, maybe I do!), but when I look at my closet, I genuinely get a little throb of excitement. The things I love are front and center. There is just enough space between each item that I can grab it without having to move everything when I take something out. What is visible and accessible are the things that fit and that I know I will wear.
This has been a labor of love, an investment in time, emotional back hoe-ing. It has made a lot of happy people, too, and not just me! I have given away many things that I didn’t love anymore, but that I knew could find happy homes elsewhere.
A decluttered, spacious closet you can be proud of doesn’t have to be a monstrous walk-in number with a chandelier and a buttery-soft leather pouf and a champagne flute. It simply has to be one that makes you happy. A drawer that makes you smile when you open it. A rack that is organized and makes you feel rich, even if it only has ten things on it, provided that those ten things make you feel amazing about yourself, your body, your life and who you are today.
Progress is progress
This ideal won’t happen overnight. It happens every time you decide not to buy something that you aren’t sure of. It happens when you finally let go of the dress that you haven’t been able to zip up in five years.
The space of your closet, whether you call it The Boudoir or Nirvana or The Firmament is a fixed quantity. How much stuff you put in it is not.
Before I get lost in tangents about how many items is too many items, sorting the closet and discarding items and a lengthy discussion on how to do this without making a huge, gigantic, soul-crushing mess, I want to just return to the point of this article: The space you have is the space you have, whether you love it or you hate it. By giving it a name, a sweet name, something flattering or funny or French, you are already taking a step down a path of loving what you own.
Here are some ideas:
The Treasure Chest
The Fountain of Youth
The Mother Lode
Now that I have you thinking that I might just be nuts, I want you to simply go to Valhalla, or your Fountain of Youth or to your Penderie and pick out the clothes that you are going to wear tomorrow and put them in the place where you will get dressed in the morning.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about doing an inventory of what you have in your closet, how to decide what to keep and what to discard, and that ever controversial question: how many clothes should I keep in my closet?
This article is part of a series called The Magic of Mise en Place
Part 1: Make Magic with Mise en Place
Part 2: Our Closets, Ourselves
Part 3: Stories from Poppy’s Closet
Part 4: Daisy’s Secrets to Rolling with the Rest
Part 5: The Boudoir
Part 6: The Inventory
Part 7: Mental Health and Mise en Place